Belgians will have to apply by mail for free Rail Pass
Belgians who want a free ten-ride ticket from the public railway company, NMBS/SNCB, a government initiative marketed as a social measure to stimulate domestic tourism and public transport post-corona, will have to apply for it by name. This is evident from the new adaptation concerning that initiative that the super-core has implemented on Friday.
NMBS/SNCB, however, is not aware that the super-core would make adjustments to the earlier decision on the politically much-discussed free Rail Pass for every Belgian. “We have not yet been officially informed of the new modalities,” spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman said on Saturday.
A first proposal was launched last weekend by the super-core, the meeting of the top ministers of the federal government, complemented by the representatives of the then parties that support the emergency powers of the Wilmès-government.
At that time, it sounded that every inhabitant would get a Rail Pass, good for ten rides between 1 July and 31 December. This resulted in a sharp response from NMBS/SNCB top lady, Sophie Dutordoir, who had questions about the coronavirus security rules, and the affordability of the initiative.
“The way in which a decision was taken without any consultation raises serious questions,” she texted on Twitter. “NMBS/SNCB, therefore, asks for immediate consultation, and all necessary help to prevent any risk of overcrowding of trains and platforms.”
During a new super-core on Friday, the decision was adjusted. Now the idea is that everyone will have to apply for the ten rides themselves and that they will be handed out by name, and the card is non-transferable. That would reduce the cost of the measure.
Apparently, the railway company was once again unaware that the file would be on the agenda of the super-core. The NMBS/SNCB is also not yet officially aware of the adapted modalities and, therefore, does not want to react to the content.
100 million-price tag
Meanwhile, the business newspaper, De Tijd, reports that the NMBS/SNCB estimates the loss of income due to the measure at a minimum of 100 million euros if two million Belgians were to apply for the card. The first reactions that the measure costs nothing because the trains are running anyway are, therefore, contradicted within NMBS/SNCB.
Still, according to De Tijd, Minister of Mobility, François Bellot (MR), instructed NMBS/SNCB to launch a tender for the distribution of the ten-route cards. The intention would be that the cards would be applied for online, and then sent by post. But because of this, they would not be able to be in the mailbox by the end of July at the earliest. The boards of directors of the railway company would deal with the issue on Monday.
Because the card has to be requested and is delivered by name, the logistical order becomes larger, De Standaard writes. “There has to be an online as well as an offline way to apply for the card, and the identity of the applicant has to be checked,” reports Jasper Pillen, spokesperson of Minister of Mobility, François Bellot. “Because the card shouldn’t be sent digitally but by post, we also have to take into account people without internet connection”, Pillen outlines the challenge.
Pillen confirms that there will be a public tender for the entire operation. The result is that the cards will indeed not be in the mailbox until the end of July at the earliest, whereas the original intention was to allow citizens to travel free of charge as early as 1 July. “We will do everything we can to deliver the tickets as soon as possible,” says Pillen.
The free rides will be available until December 31st.